Hearing the Hurt Masculine is a way to acknowledge that Masculine Energy has been damaged and weakened by about 5,000 years of Patriarchy in our history as Humanity. It’s a practice in honouring the mature Masculine and opening up space and time to simply listen compassionately to the hurt. The following is an excerpt from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette which helped me to a greater perspective and understanding. —Susan
Excerpt—this was written in the late twentieth century, in answer to one young man’s question ‘Where are the initiated men of power today?’
“It seems increasingly difficult to point to anything like either a masculine or a feminine essence.”
“We can look at family systems and see the breakdown of the traditional family. More and more families display the sorry fact of the disappearing father, which disappearance through either emotional or physical abandonement, or both, wreaks psychological devastation on the children of both sexes. The weak or absent father cripples both his daughters’ and his sons’ ability to achieve their own gender identity and to relate in an intimate and positive way with members both of their own sex and the opposite sex.
But it is our belief and experience that we can’t just point in any simple way to the disintegration of modern family systems, important as this is, to explain the crisis in masculinity. We have to look at two other factors that underlie this very disintegration.
First we need to take very seriously the disappearance of ritual processes for initiating boys into manhood. In traditional societies there are standard definitions of what makes up what we call Boy Psychology and Man Psychology. This can be seen clearly in the tribal societies that have come under the careful scrutiny of such noted anthropologists as Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. There are carefully constructed rituals for helping the boys of the tribe make the transition to manhood. Over the centuries of civilization in the West, almost all these ritual processses have been abandoned or have been diverted into narrower and less energized channels—into phenomena we call pseudo-initiations.
We can point to the historical background for the decline of ritual initiation. The Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment we strong movements that shared the theme of the discrediting of ritual process. And once ritual as a sacred and transforming process have been discredited, what we are left with is what Victor Turner has called ‘mere ceremonial’, which does not have the power necessary to achieve genuine transformation of consciousness. By disconnecting from ritual we have done away with the processes by which both men and women achieved their gender identity in a deep, mature, and life-enhancing way.
What happens to a society if the ritual processes by which these identities are formed become discredited? In the case of men, there are many who either had no initiation into manhood or who had pseudo-initiations that failed to evoke the needed transition into adulthood. We get the dominance of Boy Psychology. Boy Psychology is everywhere around us, and its marks are easy to see. Among them are abusive and violent acting-out behaviours against others, both men and women; passivity and weakness, the inability to act effectively and creatively in one’s own life and to engender life and creativity in others (both men and women); and, often, an oscillation between the two—abuse/weakness, abuse/weakness.
Along with the breakdown of meaningful ritual process for masculine initiation, a second factor seems to be contributing to the dissolution of mature masculine identity. This factor, shown to us by one strain of feminine critique, is called patriarchy. Patriarchy is the social and cultural organization that has ruled our Western world, and much of the rest of the globe, from at least the second millenium B.C.E. to the present. Feminists have seen how male dominance in patriarchy has been oppressive and abusive of the feminine—of both the so-called feminine characteristics and virtues and actual women themselves. In their radical critique of patriarchy, some feminists conclude that masculinity in its roots is essentially abusive, and that connection with ‘eros’—with love, relatedness, and gentleness—comes only from the feminine side of the human equation.
As useful as some of these insights have been to the cause of both feminine and masculine liberation from patriarchal stereotypes, we believe there are serious problems with this perspective. In our view, patriarchy is not the expression of deep and rooted masculinity, for truly deep and rooted masculinity is not abusive. Patriarchy is the expression of the immature masculine. It is the expression of Boy Psychology, and, in part, the shadow—or crazy— side of masculinity. It expresses the stunted masculine, fixated at immature levels.
We have come to the conclusion from our study of ancient myths and modern dreams, from our examination from the inside of the rapid feminization of the mainline religious community, from our reflection upon the rapid changes in gender roles in our society as a whole, and from our years of clinical practice, in which we have become increasingly aware that something vital is missing in the inner lives of many of the men who seek psychotherapy.
What is missing is not, for the most part, what many depth psychologists assume is missing; that is, adequate connection with the inner feminine. In many cases, these men seeking help had been, and were continuing to be, overwhelmed by the feminine. What they were missing was an adequate connection to the deep and instinctual masculine energies, the potentials of mature masculinity. They were being blocked from connection to these potentials by patriarchy itself, and by the feminist critique upon what little masculinity they could still hold onto for themselves. And they were being blocked by the lack in their lives of any meaningful and transformative initiatory process by which they could have achieved a sense of manhood.”
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, was the first of a five-volume series based on a decoding of the fundamental deep structures of the human self, both psychologically and spiritually, masculine and feminine. First published in 1991 by HarperCollins Paperbacks [ISBN 978-0-06-250606-1]. The excerpt reproduced here is taken from the book’s Introduction and used under the HarperCollins “Fair Use” guidelines.
The Authors: Robert Moore died in 2016. Douglas Gillette’s current work is here on his Douglas Gillette Creations website.